This week marks the centenary of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and there will be celebrations held around the country as well as open days at many air force bases throughout the year. I am very excited to be going to arguably the biggest and best airshow, at RAF Fairford in July.
I clearly remember the celebrations which were held for the 50th anniversary of the RAF when I was invited to a very grand ball at RAF base which shall be nameless. The evening was wonderful with a fabulous meal, terrific music and great company. As the sun set everyone gathered outside for the grand finale. There was to be a huge firework display ending with an illuminated framework displaying the RAF banner and title with 50th Anniversary underneath. There were some very important guests there and of course everyone wanted to make a good impression. However, once the smoke cleared and the display was fully alight there were gasps all round as the entire thing was upside down. I have no idea how many heads rolled for the incompetence and the embarrassment of the station commander, but I expect there were a few!
I and my friends from college were often invited to social functions at the air force training school on the base as we were at an all-female teacher training college, and all of the trainee pilots and navigators in those days were young men. We were treated very well with transport, refreshments and dancing laid on and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The men were very respectful and of course rules were strictly applied. It may have been the swinging sixties but It seems like a different world from today. Our college was run by a very strict order of nuns who watched over us girls like prison guards. We were only allowed visitors at certain times and they were never allowed past the common room. We were signed out by the nun who was on duty and she made sure we were all signed back in again before 11pm. Similar rules applied at the RAF base too where the commanding officers were even more terrifying than the Mother Superior.
I seem to remember that training took place on small red and white Vickers Varsity planes. If you are interested in seeing how training planes have changed over the years there is information here.
I was recently at our local small airfield and was amazed to see several beautiful new helicopters. I am used to seeing Chinooks, air ambulances and the police helicopters flying around locally, but these were visibly striking. Like giant bees they were a deep yellow and black with an all-round glass cockpit. Fortunately, when the crew popped into the local pub for coffee and burgers, they explained that these were the brand new H135 Juno and H145 Jupiter training helicopters on route to the flying school. A total of 32 of these helicopters are due to go into service this week to mark the RAF’s centenary. They will provide 28000 flight hours for 266 students each year. There are different types of training for different specialisms, basic, advanced and maritime, and according to the experts and the manufacturers, Airbus,
The innovations are superb, the flight dynamics are excellent, the Helionix instrumentation is incredibly intuitive and the platform will be an excellent lead in to Apache, Chinook, Merlin, Puma and Wildcat
Along with lots of other fascinated onlookers, I managed to take a few photos with my phone through the wire fencing, but they were not brilliant. So, I got permission from the helpful media people at Airbus, who built these beautiful helicopters, to use some of their photos. I hope you like them as much as I do. Many thanks to Alvaro Beteta.